Analytica Chimica Acta, 652(1-2), p. 272-277 (2009); doi:10.1016/j.aca.2009.06.038
The chemical reactions occurring during the glass manufacturing processes can give rise to small bubbles, damaging the required glass properties. To avoid eventual bubbles formation, the chemical composition of the bubbles should be known to trace back the gas sources and take appropriate corrective actions. Mass spectrometry is a most adequate detection technique for such purpose due to its ability to provide the required information in a short time. Analysis of these small bubbles in glass requires a system incorporating a very small volume (for a fast evacuation of the entire line and low dilution of the analytes) and a fast mass analyser allowing the quasi-simultaneous detection of the whole spectral interval of interest, such as a time-of-flight mass spectrometer (TOFMS). In this work, the analytical potential of a radiofrequency glow discharge (rf-GD) coupled to a TOFMS was evaluated for the first time for the analysis of bubbles in glasses. The operating conditions of the rf-GD (pressure and applied power) were optimized by introducing into the system known volumes of air. Detection limits in the order of nL were obtained for molecular nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Finally, a stainless steel bellows valve was modified to serve as glass breaker for the sampling process. This valve was connected on-line to the mass spectrometer inlet line and proved to be most appropriate for the analysis of the gaseous content of bubbles (with diameters below 0.5 mm) entrapped in industrial glasses.